WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday dismissed indictments against 10 of 28 defendants in major drug cases because an FBI agent may have been involved in tampering with evidence including firearms and narcotics.
The FBI is investigating the alleged misconduct, according to court papers.
At a court hearing for four other defendants, a different federal judge said he will review the government's plan to dismiss the cases without prejudice, which leaves the door open for the government to refile charges at a later date. In all, the government plans to dismiss 28 cases.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia says it is conducting a case-by-case review of matters in which the FBI agent played some role.
The government wants its cake and wants to "eat it too," U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said of law enforcement officials trying to position themselves to refile charges. The judge said leaving the possibility of renewed charges leaves defendants with "a sword over their heads." However, Leon also said the defendants are accused of "very serious charges." For the time being, the defendants remain in custody. A hearing is set for Dec. 10 on the refiling issue.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg dismissed indictments against 10 of the defendants.
According to court papers, the FBI notified the U.S. attorney's office in Washington on Oct. 1 about possible misconduct by an agent in the execution of a search warrant on Nov. 20, 2013, at a residence and in a vehicle belonging to one of the co-defendants in Deale, Maryland.
In one case, 10 defendants were charged with conspiring to distribute more than 1 pound of heroin and more than 10 pounds of cocaine last year. In a separate case, eight defendants were indicted for allegedly conspiring to distribute more than 2 pounds of heroin in 2012.